For Reading’s 500th game at the Madejski Stadium, the Royals take on struggling Burton Albion in a match that both sides need to win for very different reasons. To get the lowdown on the opposition, and why they’re having a tough time this season, we spoke to @RichardCusackBM from the Burton Mail.
He told that, despite the Brewers’ struggles, they’ve a tough nut to crack when they play away from home.
Burton surprised many to avoid relegation last season, but as things stand they’re in the bottom three. What’s changed this season?
The quality of the Championship has improved greatly and, bar Birmingham, a lot of the sides that were down there last season - Wolves and Forest for example - aren’t. The teams that have come up have all established themselves in the Championship and beyond before, too. What certainly hasn’t helped, though,. is a lack of goals and poor home form.
The Brewers have lost seven on the bounce at the Pirelli Stadium, but have compensated for that with some excellent performances on the road, where a surprising number of points have come from this season.
How’s Nigel Clough doing as manager - can he keep Burton up?
I’ve said before that he’s the only manager who truly, maybe alongside Gary Rowett, knows the club inside out. Burton were a non-league side as recently as 2009, and hadn’t advanced from League Two until the 2014-15 season. He’s the architect of the foundations the club needed to be where they are now. Whether Burton stay up or not won’t be down to him, although they’re making a pretty good go of it at the moment.
Realistically, in the long-term can Burton establish themselves in the Championship?
That’s a tricky one, because a lot of the talk has been about how it’s never been a better time or chance for Burton to make a real go at solidifying their second-tier status. But, for all the reasons outlined above, it’s going to be difficult. They’re not in the market for the same players as the other 23 sides above them, so that certainly doesn’t help.
What are the main strengths of this Burton side?
On the road, they’ve shown themselves to be a pragmatic unit capable of a goal threat. That might come across as ‘boring’ or ‘parking the bus’, but the level Burton are operating at means that they can’t go gung-ho at teams. They attacked from the off well against Bolton and got the goal they needed - and probably should have had a couple more. It’s always nervy watching Burton, both for them and the opposition!
How about weaknesses?
They aren’t the most clinical side, and their ageing back-four hasn’t defended well against pace this season. But, once they click at the back they can be a formidable unit. Injuries have hampered them, too, so their bench hasn’t been the strongest. They lack goals, and haven’t scored more than two in a game since Halloween eight games ago, itself a 2-1 loss to Barnsley.
How do you see the match going, and what will the score be?
Famous last words... make sure your nails are at the ready, because gritty Burton are sure to take it down to the wire. Would certainly take a 1-1 draw heading into back-to-back home games against Leeds and Norwich.